Weekly Meanderings, 20 October 2018

Weekly Meanderings, 20 October 2018 October 20, 2018

Hello from Dublin!

Beth Allison Barr:

The same afternoon Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, one of my friends sent me a link to a devotional series for married couples from Desiring God. My heart just sank.

This is how it was tweeted on October 5, 2018: “She submits. He sacrifices. She follows. He leads. She affirms. He initiates. They both reflect Jesus.” The devotional book, Happily Ever After: Finding Grace in the Messes of Marriage, was a free digital download last weekend. I don’t know how many folk downloaded it, but the tweet was altogether liked, retweeted, and commented on more than 600 times.

Just the next day, on October 6, I ran across another Desiring God post (through twitter). In this post, Piper answered the question “can a woman preach if elders affirm it?” on his blog. It received 69,386 views on YouTube (by my count on October 12). You can watch the video (and read the really lively comment discussion), but the tweet already gave his answer:  “All men and women should be active in ministry. The question is how. Pastor John explains why God reserves Sunday-morning preaching for men.”….

On the one hand, John Piper’s promotions of “godly patriarchy” on Desiring God has no explicit connection to the mixed reactions toward Christine Blasey Ford and thesupport for Brett Kavanaugh by conservative men and women. On the other hand, it has everything to do with it.  Attitudes like those perpetuated by John Piper create, sustain, and promote a culture of patriarchy in North American Christianity that advocates for submissive women and aggressive males. What saddens me the most is how these portrayals of manhood and womanhood are marketed (and I really do mean marketed) as the “biblical” standard for godly behavior. …

Listen not just from the experiences of other women, but also from the evidence of church history. I confess it was experiences in my life, my personal exposure to the ugliness and trauma inflected by complementarian systems in the name of Jesus, that tipped me over the edge. I can no longer watch silently as gender hierarchies oppress and damage both women and men in the name of Jesus.

But what brought me to this edge was not experience; it was historical evidence.

Soon I am going to start a new series on The Historical Problem of Patriarchy for Modern Christians. It will highlight my journey to egalitarianism through historical evidence. I hope you will join me.

MeToo Backlash:

While the #MeToo movement has officially been around for more than a decade, the campaign really took off a year ago this week, when the New York Times published its investigation into movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Since then, hundreds of women have levelled accusations of sexual misconduct against a growing list of high-profile men.

And while #MeToo has ended, or at least sidelined, the careers of some household names, it also has unintended chilling consequences on women seeking careers in the medical profession, a new commentary says.

commentary published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that very same hashtag is also creating a “culture of fear” in academic medicine, scaring off men from mentoring women.

Backlash is ‘hostile sexism’

“Some men in positions of power now say they are afraid to participate in mentoring relationships with women,” reads the commentary, penned by six Canadian scientists — all women working in the fields of medical research and education.

“Men say they fear false allegations of sexual misconduct that could compromise their reputations and end their careers, even if they were found to be innocent.”

The authors describe this #MeToo backlash as “hostile sexism” because it punishes women by withdrawing mentorship opportunities from those who challenge the status quo.

Michelle Van Loon:

…every stick-and-stone word ever flung my way.

Yesterday, our Tweeter-in-Chief lobbed one of his never-ending word grenades at a woman with whom he’d had a consensual intimate relationship, calling Stephanie Clifford/Stormy Daniels “Horseface”. We all know this wasn’t a one-off thing; he has a long history of giving opponents all sorts of demeaning nicknames, with what seems to be a special focus on verbally trashing his female enemies. His political fan club loves the spectacle, and celebrates the way he “punches back ten times harder” when he feels he’s been disrespected or attacked.

During the last two years, I’ve read an ocean of words explaining why his supporters love him so, and why such a large percentage of self-identified Evangelicals back (and in some cases, seem to worship) him. Though I am not among them, and remain staunchly in the #NeverTrump camp, I try to listen to the concerns and hopes of those with whom I disagree. (The operative word here is “try”. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t always succeed.) But I can’t listen when names like “Horseface” are applied to a human being made in the image of God. I just can’t.

Some of Trump’s supporters claim to hold old-fashioned values like chivalry and human dignity in the context of Biblical morality. They cling to the hope that once just the right mix of laws and judges are in place, America will return to a golden age that once existed in the latter years of the Eisenhower administration, at least for white people. (People of color didn’t enjoy the greatness of 1950’s America in the same way that white people did.) With a brutal ends-justifies-the-means approach, it means that no matter who gets mowed down on the way there, it’ll be worth it when America is finally, finally great again.

I can not imagine what equation would lead someone to believe that if you dehumanize people, you will somehow magically be on the road to greatness. How can “Horseface” ever lead us anywhere good?

In middle school, some boys called me an animal name, and my overreaction to that mean name, no doubt emerging out of the name I’d been called by my mom my entire life, branded me with it for the rest of one miserable school year. Even now, I can not bear to put it in print. (I also know that the internet is populated by people with the emotional bandwidth of middle school boys, and by putting it out there, I might find it resurrected by someone who decides he or she has an axe to grind with me.) There was no one to stand up for me, and by the end of the school year, I was beginning to contemplate suicide.

Conservative politics and Roman Catholic intellectuals: where are the evangelicals?

When evangelicals mobilised politically in the 1970s and declared a ‘culture war’ against the menace of secularism, they put aside their longstanding anti-Catholicism and reached out to Catholic conservatives. Catholics proved to be perfect partners. Unlike evangelicals, conservative Catholics could draw on research universities, law schools, medical schools, business schools and other intellectual-producing institutions in the fight against secularism. Evangelicals’ suspicion of higher education since at least the days of the 1925 Scopes trial over teaching evolution meant that they had built few institutions of higher learning. Their bible colleges and seminaries were meant to create believers and converts, not intellectuals.

One important exception was an effort by the evangelical theologian Carl Henry to build a research university in the 1950s to rival Harvard and Yale (not to mention Georgetown and Notre Dame). But Henry’s effort to raise $300 million quickly fell apart. Donors worried that the university would distract from proselytising, which they held to be far more important. They also clashed over student-conduct rules, such as whether alcohol and movies would be allowed at the new university. Evangelicals had no centralised authority to settle these disputes and, in any case, rigorous intellectual enquiry was not a priority for a tradition that argues that the basic insights of Christianity are matters of the heart more than the mind. Evangelical law schools and PhD programmes remain extremely rare in the US. Ironically, a tradition so devoted to spreading literacy saw too much learning as a potential danger.

So, Catholics contributed a disproportionate share of intellectuals and professionals for the religious Right, while evangelicals provided the bodies and the votes. Unlike the Jewish intellectuals clustered around neoconservative publications, Catholic conservatives were more reliable on cultural issues such as abortion. It is no small irony that Notre Dame has become the most important centre for the historical study of evangelicalism. In 1994, the influential historian, and evangelical, Mark Noll called the lack of rigorous intellectual activity among evangelicals a ‘scandal’. Ten years on, he celebrated ‘the increasing engagement between evangelicals and Roman Catholics’ for the ‘improved evangelical use of the mind.’

How long the Catholic-evangelical alliance in US politics will continue is hard to say, but it is still going strong. One only needs to look at the nomination of the Catholic Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Now confirmed, he replaces Anthony Kennedy, another Catholic, and keeps a five-seat conservative majority on the nine-person court (including Gorsuch, who grew up Catholic but now attends an Episcopalian church with his family). Three of the four finalists for Kennedy’s seat were Catholic.

Catholic intellectual life in the US is not solely conservative, and Catholic conservatism sometimes cuts across the Left-Right divide in the US (on immigration and the death penalty, for example). But it remains the case that Catholic intellectuals are overrepresented in the US conservative movement. By virtue of their 19th-century separationist anxieties and their investment in institutions of higher learning, Catholics have become the brains of the religious Right in the US.

MONTOUR TOWNSHIP, Pa. — A Pennsylvania family has more tomatoes than they know what to do with after their aggressive plant kept climbing, eventually reaching the roof of the two-story home.

Sam Krum has planted vegetables for as long as he can remember. When his family moved into their home just outside Bloomsburg last year, they planted tomatoes and got a surprising result.

“I don’t know why it got that big, but it just grew and grew and grew,” he told WNEP.

Their tomato plant is 22 feet tall, and it was only planted five months ago.

“My buddy gave me his little secret recipe for growing big tomatoes, and I used it and beat him. Now, he won’t tell me the rest of it,” Sam Krum said.

Krum planted others at the same time and cared for them the exact same way, but they didn’t turn out the same way.

“My biggest one (before this) was 13 feet. This one bypassed that by far.”

Krum’s kids like to pick the cherry tomatoes off the plant.

Tanya Marlow:

When I became a wheelchair user, needing to be pushed by a carer, I expected the lack of freedom. What I didn’t expect was the invisibility. It’s partly because the last time I was at this height on wheels people were cooing at me, hoping to see me dribble. Now they see a wheelchair and turn aside in case they see me dribble.

Polite adults are conditioned to look away from disabled people because they fear saying or doing the wrong thing. I am invisible. It is my new superpower. One time at an airport, a check-in clerk glanced over my head then asked my husband, “What’s her name?” She was a brave woman: in a wheelchair I am at the perfect height for head-butting someone in the groin.

Children, however, are a different breed. When they notice the difference, they are curious – often loudly. As a parent, there’s nothing quite so mortifying as your child yelling in a crowded area, “Why is that boy shaking?” or, “If that lady has a white stick for blind people, how come she’s reading a book?” Even if kids don’t shout, they stare.

Alice Broadway, author of the young adult Ink trilogy, recently tweeted her advice for exactly this situation, arguing that children’s curiosity about disability is to be embraced, not silenced. After all, it is strange to see an adult who seems to be in the position of a child. Her eldest boy is autistic and has Down’s syndrome, so she speaks from experience.

Her surprising advice for parents? Don’t tell your child not to stare. Although it sounds counterintuitive, Broadway explains this communicates shame to your child for noticing difference.


SYRACUSE—This office looks like a pretty typical co-working space, what with the guy with a ponytail coding in one corner, the pile of bikes clustered in another, and the minimalist desks spread across a light-filled room. Troy Evans opened this space, CoWorks, in a downtown building here in February.

Coworking is probably a familiar concept at this point, but Evans wants to take his idea a step further. On Friday, on the top two floors of the building, he’s starting construction on a space he envisions as a dorm for Millennials, though he cringes at the word “dorm.” Commonspace, as he’s calling it, will feature 21 microunits, which each pack a tiny kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living space into 300-square-feet. The microunits surround shared common areas including a chef’s kitchen, a game room, and a TV room. Worried about the complicated social dynamics of so many Millennials in one living unit? Fear not, Evans and partner John Talarico are hiring a “social engineer” who will facilitate group events and maintain harmony among roommates.

Forget communes or co-ops. Millennials, Evans says, want the chance to be alone in their own bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens, but they also want to be social and never lonely (hence #FOMO).

“We’re trying to combine an affordable apartment with this community style of living, rather than living by yourself in a one-bedroom in the suburbs,” Evans, who is 35, told me.

Some parts of Commonspace are sure to appeal to twentysomethings looking for friends in the city. Evans plans to create an online recruiting process that will help him select applicants who fit into the community. Residents will be able to communicate with each other through Facebook groups and Slack channels, and will come together through weekly dinners and pub crawls and will be able to garden together on the rooftop garden.


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